The theory was that Barack Obama’s election as president in 2008 signaled a new era for black candidates trying to win statewide contests for senator or governor. Now, Rep. Kendrick Meek is struggling with the reality…
Meek, 6-foot-3 and with the steady demeanor of the state trooper he once was, is upbeat.
“I’m comfortable playing the role of David,” he says in an interview in a quiet corner of a hotel lobby here, his brown tooled cowboy boots stretched out in front of him. First he must defeat Jeff Greene in the Aug. 24 Democratic primary, then win the November election.
That will require threading a needle: Holding the Democratic base — winning back many Democrats now inclined to back Charlie Crist , the Republican-turned-independent governor — as Republican Marco Rubio and Crist divide the rest.
“The president proved that a person of color can run and win in Florida,” Meek says. The Sunshine State, 15% black and 20% Hispanic, went for Obama by 51%-48% over Republican John McCain. In office, Meek says, Obama has demonstrated to voters that an African American can make decisions “on behalf of all of us,” black and white.
Another interesting point from the story:
Nationwide, the number of African Americans winning major-party nominations for the high-profile offices hasn’t risen in the wake of Obama’s election. It has gone down.
A record six black candidates claimed these nominations in the 2006 midterms. This year, no more than four have a reasonable chance to be nominated.
And then there’s this exchange:
“This is a seat that Kendrick Meek cannot win,” Greene says in a brief interview afterwards — not because of his race but because “people are fed up” with politicians and Meek is tainted by “one of the worst corruption scandals in Florida history.” He is referring to federal funding Meek sought for a developer, now awaiting trial on fraud charges, who put Meek’s mother on his payroll. Meek succeeded his mother, Carrie, in Congress in 2003.
Outside the glass doors, Kendrick Meek is climbing out of his car. The two men haven’t seen one another since Greene launched his challenge.
“Hello, Kendrick,” Greene says. “How are you doing?”
“Hello, haven’t seen you,” Meek replies as the two warily shake hands while pivoting to engage others in the hallway.